Mayor describes talks with Fenland Council over future of Hudson indoor bowls club as ‘like knocking my head against a brick wall’

PUBLISHED: 16:37 13 September 2018

Front page of tomorrow's Wisbech Standard turning the spotlight on the bowls club controversy

Front page of tomorrow's Wisbech Standard turning the spotlight on the bowls club controversy

Archant

The mayor of Wisbech Peter Human described trying to discuss the future of the Hudson Indoor Bowls Club with Fenland Council as “knocking my head against a brick wall”.

Cllr Human arranged the meeting following the revelation that the club – which he chairs and has a membership of 140 – is likely to close before Christmas when running of the leisure centre changes hand.

Fenland Council has sold a 15 year lease to Freedom Leisure for its four centres at Wisbech, Chatteris, March and Whittlesey to make savings, they expect, of £350,000 a year.

But the bowls club were not aware until this week – and neither were Fenland councillors – that the lease on the bowls club at the Hudson would have to go as part of the deal.

Cllr Human said today: “I have had a meeting at Fenland Council regarding the bowls club. It was like knocking my head against a brick wall for one hour.”

He said a further meeting was being planned for the Boat House to continue the talks.

Club membership secretary Roger Rawson posted on social media today that he had spoken with staff at the Hudson “and they are as blind and bewildered as us”.

Mr Rawson pledged: “The fight goes on.”

Phil Hughes, head of leisure services at Fenland Council, has emailed Fenland district and Wisbech town councillors with an update.

He said Cllr Mark Buckton, the portfolio holder for leisure and corporate director Richard Cassidy, plan a discussion with the bowls club.

He said they hoped to “pass on more details about the redevelopment and identify how we can work together to provide support to bowls club members during this transition period”.

Fenland Council describe the transfer of the leisure centres as “in the mobilisation phase”.

The council has pointed out that the bowls club has a lease until December 31 and they anticipate the new owners Freedom Leisure taking over the centres from December 4.

It is possible, the council has told the bowls club, a short term agreement with Freedom may be possible.

The council say that anticipated that a partner would be able to attract many more visitors into the Hudson Centre if the bowls hall was used for a different purpose.

Both bidders for the leisure contract put forward redevelopment proposals, with Freedom’s bid “indicating a high number of additional visitors and an improved financial position”.

The council says “this solution is contractual and will mean that the centre becomes financially viable in the long term, as well as becoming a more attractive community asset used by many more people from the Wisbech area”.

The council has told club members that they appreciate the decision to end the lease “will be a big disappointment……..however the wider community benefits of this change are overwhelmingly positive for the Wisbech community”.

Club members are urging others to contact MP Steve Barclay and one posted today that he is “aware of the situation and has a future meeting with someone from the council”. The poster said the MP’s staff had asked for letters and emails which would be “a great help in his and our battle as the more evidence we can provide to keep the bowls going the stronger his case”.

Mr Barclay’s email is Stephen.barclay.mp@parliament.uk

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